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A Veteran's Review of RAN

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  • A Veteran's Review of RAN

    Allow me to preface this review by saying that I have been playing the ND games for fourteen years. Over those years, I have probably played each game well over twenty times--the older ones probably over fifty--and I do at least one full marathon of all 33 games (i.e., all 32 and SCK Remastered) annually. As I have gotten older, I have found myself ranking the games, characters, music, etc., in my spare time during marathons, and this year I thought I would write--and subsequently post--reviews of each game while I go through my 2018/2019 marathon (things have been very busy and chaotic). I have lost access to/forgotten about my previous accounts on here, including my very first one, so I made a new one solely for this purpose. That being said, I hope you enjoy my review, and I apologize, again, for the wait to those who have been following me!

    Before I begin, I wanted to say that I chose not to replay this game before writing this review. I have played it plenty of times, but I could not bring myself to inflict that kind of pain or spend that much time on it again, especially when I am already setting aside time to write its review. Anyway, since that statement alone should prepare you for the overall tone of this review, let's dive in.

    Plot: If I had to describe this game and its plot in one word, it would be "oof" or "yikes;" take your pick. One of the saddest things to me is when a game concept is released and sounds really promising but doesn't pan out. You can see that there was inspiration and potential in the idea, but the execution is horrible and muddled. There have been a few Nancy Drew games that have promised something thrilling in the trailers and, come release, absolutely failed to deliver, most notably to date, The Creature of Kapu Cave. Unfortunately, Ransom of the Seven Ships was another one of those games. I distinctly remember finishing The Haunting of Castle Malloy and being completely stoked about the plot and how it involved Bess and George. Then, once I actually played and beat the game, I was deeply disappointed in how things had turned out. What happened here? How had this game failed to impress so thoroughly? To understand how this happened, let's take a second to refresh our memories of the plot:

    After winning a five-day trip to the Bahamas, Bess invites George and Nancy to join her on the island excursion. Nancy is unable to join Bess and George until a day after the vacation begins, but when she arrives by floatplane, George comes running, frantically waving her arms and yelling for the pilot to return. We soon find out that Bess has been kidnapped, an incredibly strange prospect when on a tiny, remote island, and that the kidnappers left a note for Nancy requesting that she find El Toro's treasure in order to get Bess back. Who kidnapped Bess? What does this have to do with El Toro's treasure? How did these kidnappers know about Nancy, her vacation plans, and her penchant for solving mysteries? It's up to you as Nancy Drew, but you will definitely not get an answer to one of these questions.

    Now, I know what you're thinking. How is it remotely possible for someone to kidnap and hide Bess on an island that could easily be searched by a team of two people in one day or less? My answer is this: it shouldn't be. If Nancy and George did a grid search of the island, that would take less time and be easier than searching for a lost Spanish treasure. Nonetheless, Nancy decides that sailing, playing games with monkeys, scuba diving, rock climbing, caving, negotiating with a parrot, accepting multiple chores from a strange man, translating a diary, and solving an outlandish number of puzzles is easier and more worthy of her time. Remember how Nancy is spunky and sassy in The Final Scene when Maya is kidnapped? That does not exist here. I may be going out on a limb here, but I would think that her best friend, Bess, would rank higher than Maya even, yet Nancy acts completely calm and lets the only other human on the island (besides George) walk all over her. It makes no sense whatsoever. George isn't much better and spends her entire time, minus a rescue operation, trying to fix a satellite phone, but she, at the very least, is panicked, as one would expect to be in that situation. So, how did the plot fail? Well, part of that will be revealed in my discussion of the characters and puzzles, but the biggest issue is that the plot is totally illogical. Nancy's best friend is kidnapped. There's one suspect. ONE. However, she decides to go on a LONG treasure hunt instead of confronting said individual. There is so much wrong with this scenario it's insulting.

    Setting: I'm not going to lie; I'm not a fan of the setting in this game. As such, I am not going to spend much time talking about it, especially since so much of the environment is seen from an overhead "map" perspective. The resort itself is...not aesthetically pleasing. Shark Cove beach is...honestly worse looking to me than the beachfront in The Creature of Kapu Cave. Sangre Beach is slightly better animated and has decent water, but still doesn't look that nice. The Blue Hole is probably the best looking environment in the game, and even it isn't particularly great. None of the locations are worth writing home about, honestly, and certainly don't compare to the beauty of an island.

    Characters: What characters?! If you thought The Haunting of Castle Malloy suffered in this area, this game's characters will make you think that cast is exceptional.

    Johnny Rolle - Jamaican fisherman and hermit

    1) Kind of funny

    2) Nice accent

    1) Extremely unhelpful

    2) Unkind

    3) Assigns multiple chores

    4) Suspicious since he is the only person on the island you can see

    5) Potential liar

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) He is the only person on the island you can see besides George

    2) Found Bess' shoe near his camp

    3) Has a net for trapping things near his camp

    4) Has a camp on the beach Bess disappeared at, yet claims he has never seen her

    5) Unlikelihood of some random fisherman being on a deserted island during hurricane season without serious provisions and shelter

    6) Says that there are other people on the island, yet neither Nancy nor George have never seen them

    George Fayne - best friend, Bess Marvin's cousin


    1) Nice

    2) Best friends with Nancy and Bess

    3) Smart...usually

    4) Helpful

    1) Not helpful as she could be

    2) Spends all of her time working on a satellite phone

    3) Does not bother riding with Nancy to bring the other golf cart back to the resort in case she needs transportation

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) None? Why would she kidnap her own cousin or ask Nancy to find a treasure?

    Other Notes:

    1) My biggest complaint about George in this game, besides how irrational she acts, is how little of a role she plays in the game. We have the opportunity to see her and play as her, but she serves almost no purpose except to fill the game with more than just Nancy and the culprit. We get to talk to her a couple times, but, honestly, she is just sort of there to be there.

    Bess Marvin - best friend, George Fayne's cousin


    1) Nice

    1) Creepy

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) I kind of doubt Bess would kidnap herself to make Nancy find a treasure, so...

    Other Notes:

    1) Poor Bess. If you thought George's role was useless, then Bess is another story entirely. She is only in the game for 0.2 seconds, and, during that time, her behavior is terrifying. It's one thing to say that Bess is hungry; it's another to make her out to be the next Hannibal Lecter!

    Coucou - parrot, granddaughter to Loulou


    1) Hilarious

    2) Adorable

    3) Nice conversation partner

    4) Friendly

    5) Does tricks

    6) Generally helpful


    1) A bit bossy

    2) Extremely picky about perches

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Unless you think it is possible that a parrot could kidnap a person, I think we can clear Coucou of all suspicion.

    Other Notes:

    1) I thought Coucou was a fun addition to the game, though I would have preferred another human character given how barren the game is of those. However, since Loulou is one of my favorite characters and favorite animal in the games, it was nice to bring back a version of her in this game.

    Monkeys - monkeys at Dread Isle primate research center, thieves, game enthusiasts


    2) Did I say adorable?!


    4) Cute

    5) Play games

    6) Have conversations that make me want to weep from cuteness

    7) Give prizes

    1) Steal things

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Not to say that these aren't some rambunctious monkeys, but I do not think they are capable of kidnapping a person or that they would want to do so, much less for a treasure or to exact revenge on Nancy.

    Music: As one might expect, I found the soundtrack for this game to be thoroughly unlikable, much like the rest of the game. There is only one song on the entire soundtrack that I like and the rest I cannot stand, which makes it my most disliked soundtrack from all of the games. Now, that one track, "Toro," is so magnificent that I am going to discuss it separately later, but the reason I consider this soundtrack to be a major failure, beyond finding it hard to listen to, is that it is so tonally inconsistent with the game. For one, a soundtrack that is largely compromised of peppy, borderline-kitsch "island" music, at least given the frequency they are heard in-game, does not set a good tone in a game that is supposed to be about a friend's kidnapping and a treasure hunt. Nothing about the former scenario is jolly, and searching for a Spanish treasure at the bequest of kidnappers is also not something I would consider lighthearted. Nonetheless, you have tracks like "Wander," "Island," and "Monkeys" which are about as sonically bright and cheerful as possible. Never have I disliked the use of a steel drum as much as I do in these songs, and the steel drum is a magnificent instrument. The congas and guitar aren't much better, but the steel drum is the worst offender in those songs.

    The tracks that do not fit the "cliché island" description can only be summed up in three words: kitsch pirate themes. Honestly, they sound like something out of a Pirates of the Caribbean-esque B-movie or a pirate dinner-and-acrobatics show you might see near the touristy beaches. "Sailing" sort of sits at the border of this category and the previous one because it truly embodies a stereotypical "nautical" sound (read: flutes in a high register and jaunty rhythm), but it still could be used as a pirate theme. Meanwhile, "Discovery" is like its brother and takes on a grander maritime sound, as you would envision playing while a galleon sails the seas in the bright, afternoon sun. The most flagrant track is, without question, "Johnny," which might as well be a direct ripoff of Jack Sparrow's theme. The bass part is identical. Literally. Even if it was an intentional choice, it's still pretty awkward. "Danger," "Underwater," and "High Tension" are the darker themes, but they, too, sound like something from Pirates of the Caribbean. Definitely "walk the plank," "dig up treasure in the moonlight," "swim next to the boat," "raid a town," or "shanghai some guys" music.

    That leaves us with the one golden song of the entire soundtrack that does not fit in either category. Its distinct sound and lovely instrumentation set it apart immediately, but it is truly lovely and actually tonally appropriate as well, which is why I have such high regard for it. It is impossible to go wrong with a classical guitar, but this choice is extremely suitable given the prominence of Spain in the story. The melody itself is lovely and reminiscent of Spanish folk music (or flamenco music) as well. I deeply appreciate how pared back this composition is compared to the others, which have layers upon layers on sound. The simplicity of the track is tremendously fitting with the environmental aesthetic, but the slight build with the soft, sustained strings adds a level of tension and mysticism that is even more appropriate for that location. How such a work of art came to be with the rest of the soundtrack is beyond me, but I thankful that it prevents the soundtrack from being a complete and utter flop.

    Puzzles: Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. If there is one thing this game has, it is puzzles. There are an outrageous number of puzzles in this game, and many of them are opaque and difficult to solve independently. Even after all this time, I still (have to or choose to) look at solutions to solve some of them, even though I know how they are supposed to be solved now. Anyway, let's break them down into the categories.

    Great: Kidnapper's note navigation puzzle, El Toro cryptogram puzzle, astrolabe puzzle, Blue Hole diving puzzle, dial puzzle, keyhole plate puzzle

    The puzzles in this category were those I considered clever, creative, and fun. They range in levels of difficulty, but most are moderately difficult at best. My favorite among them is probably the kidnapper's note navigation puzzle, though the keyhole plate puzzle would be if it didn't lead to me watching the same unskippable cutscene and second chance screens over and over. I think that one is especially creative, and I like that the solution is randomized every time.

    Good: Coconut throw game puzzle, message in a bottle puzzle, journal decoding, perch puzzle, bat seeker cave puzzle, camel jigsaw/slider puzzle, Alleyway game puzzle, color block puzzle, Atocha puzzle, line/squares puzzle, metal disk puzzle, GPS coordinates puzzle

    Due to the sheer number of puzzles in this category, I am not going to discuss them individually. However, all of the puzzles I included here were either refreshingly simple and fun (e.g., the monkey's games) or moderately difficult without being irritating, at least to me. They didn't force me to look up solutions, unless I wanted to save time that is, to solve them, and they didn't force me into a second chance screen a ridiculous number of times like some of the other puzzles did.

    Mediocre: Bat seeker repair puzzle, diving supplies locker puzzle, nautical flag puzzle, driving/sailing puzzles, scuba diving metal detector puzzle, scuba diving jellyfish/pressure puzzle, octopus puzzle, metal detector puzzle

    The puzzles in this category were either simple, boring, or both. They left next to no impression on me.

    Bad: Distilled water puzzle, scuba diving sudoku, cave light puzzle, pulley puzzle, symbol lock puzzle

    While none of the puzzles in this category are "bad" in terms of puzzle quality, except the cave light/mirror one, they are quite difficult, take too long to solve, or force you into a high pressure situation while trying to solve them, which unnecessarily makes them more difficult than they ought to be. Otherwise, they would all be in the good puzzle category.

    Horrible: Hourglass puzzle

    This puzzle. Well, it's the only one I listed here, but I actually don't hate it. It's probably the most memorable puzzle in the game for me. What I don't like is how long it takes to solve it, and, if I remember correctly, you have a finite number of chances to solve it. I could be wrong though. Either way, without solutions from other fans, I doubt I would have had the patience to sit there and count everything out as was intended. Given how long and unsatisfying the game is, it was a shame to through such a good puzzle in at a point where everyone playing was probably feeling put out and wanted to be done.

    Graphics: Unfortunately, this game does not deliver across the board, including graphics. It is really a shame that this game looks legitimately inferior to most of its predecessors and successors. My biggest complaint about the environmental graphics has to be the textures and heavy use of static pictures instead of rendered environments (e.g., the resort exterior). The flora design was underwhelming, too, and made the color palette really suffer. The character design is pretty weak as well. The textures are back in The Phantom of Venice territory, and the faces all suffer from disproportionately long noses. They remain reasonably expressive, though, which is worth praise. I think Bess is honestly adorable though, and I think her character design--minus that dress--is the best look she's had in the games and truer to her description in the books.

    Ending: At this point, I doubt you are expecting me to say something positive about this game. If you were, then I am sorry to disappoint you. The ending of this game is in a three-way tie for worst game ending with The Creature of Kapu Cave and Trail of the Twister. Now, if you haven't, be sure to go read my reviews of CRE and TOT, once the latter is written, for more on my thoughts on those endings and why I think they are so awful. Anyway, this game's ending suffers from a lot of different syndromes, one of which is what I like to call "Obvious Culprit Syndrome." For the sake of spoilers, I will not say any more on that subject, but anyone who has played the game will tell you that they were not even remotely surprised by the culprit. There is a bit of a twist, but it is honestly so laughable and nonsensical that I think the game would have been better without it. Let's just say that I did not gasp because I did not recognize said person and would not have had Nancy not rambled like she did. It wasn't even the same voice actor. Still, I can't go into details on that one, so that's all I will say on the matter.

    Culprit choice aside, the monologues in the culprit reveal are ridiculous. The whole segment with Bess and the treasure are fine, except that the second chance screens make Bess terrifying. Once the ending letter begins, things derail even further with an unsatisfying cop-out for the culprit, unsatisfying result for the treasure's fate, and unsatisfying explanation for the Gibson's absence. The conclusion: the ending was as unsatisfying as the rest of the game.

    Other points of interest: Well, I must say that the voice acting in this game was on par with everything else at least. Over half of the voices were done by Lani herself, but Bess, George, and Johnny all had good vocal talent. I prefer George's other voice actresses more, but her voice acting was still solid. Jonah's accents were better in this game compared to the others, though his Australian one leaves much to be desired.

    The only other thing worth mentioning here is how much of the gave is dedicated to driving, sailing, and climbing, all of which I cannot stand. The sailing is probably the most enjoyable, but I really do not like the visuals or gameplay aspect of any of those game segments. It's even worse that you are forced to do them so many times.

    The Takeaway: Unfortunately, I have little to say about this game, and what I do have to say is overwhelmingly negative. The plot, setting, characters, music, graphics, and ending all leave much to be desired. I am honestly unsure if I dislike this game even more than CRE, but it, at the very least, has SOME good puzzles sprinkled in among the insanely difficult or annoying ones. With that being said, I give this game half a star out of ten.

    So the final question is obviously whether I think you should play this game. If you are a dedicated fan who wants to play all of the games, then you have my respect, but save this one for later. Don't save it for last, though, because you want to end on a high note for sure, and this game will not help you there. If you've got a good many games under your belt and you're looking for another game to play, I would recommend looking at something else. If you are new to the ND games, I would recommend choosing another game with a strong plot, great characters, and fun puzzles. Also, it is not scary at all, so if you are looking for a scary game, give this one a hard pass. If you would like to play one of my favorite Nancy Drew games, try out Treasure in the Royal Tower, The Final Scene, Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, and Secret of Shadow Ranch out of the older games. If a new(er) game is more your speed, and especially if you have already played the aforementioned titles, then I highly recommend Shadow at the Water's Edge, The Deadly Device, Ghost of Thornton Hall, and The Silent Spy (again, all in my top ten).

    Thank you for reading my review! I hope that my perspectives and ramblings inspire someone to look at this game through fresh eyes or feel validated in their opinion of it, whatever that opinion may be. I should be posting a review of Warnings at Waverly Academy within the next week, barring any more real-life events that cause delays, and I will continue to post them as I try to finish up my 2018 Nancy Drew Marathon before 2019 take this as a warning that there's more to come.

    Previous review: The Haunting of Castle Malloy
    Next review: Warnings at Waverly Academy

    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; November 19, 2021, 06:27 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by yukixiaomeimei View Post

    There is a bit of a twist, but it is honestly so laughable and nonsensical that I think the game would have been better without it. Let's just say that I did not gasp because I did not recognize said person and would not have had Nancy not rambled like she did. It wasn't even the same voice actor. Still, I can't go into details on that one, so that's all I will say on the matter.

    All of your points voiced in this review are EXACTLY how I feel about this game, but this point rang especially true! As much as I like the idea of having a culprit return (especially this culprit- my favorite culprit, originally), I think it was so poorly executed for the reasons you list, plus, I'm not sure the whole plot of this mystery (as far as hunting for hidden gold) is something that this returning culprit would even be involved in. Grrrr!

    Anyway, I have read several of your thorough reviews and they are excellent! I am excited for you to get to The Deadly Device!
    Last edited by Juliana+Walter; September 20, 2019, 12:46 PM.
    Stay Tuned for Danger- Lights, Camera,CURSES! - MIDNIGHT IN SALEM

    find out what I think of these games, and 30 others,


    • #3
      I completely agree with you that bringing back an old culprit would be incredible! There are so many characters that I would love to see back in action, but there is a lot of potential with this particular culprit return, especially if they could get the original voice actor back! Given how the ending played out, I really hope they could manage to bring said culprit back in a way that is more consistent with their motivations and personality. Honestly, the culprit from The Secret of Shadow Ranch would have been a much more fitting and entertaining choice for this game.

      Originally posted by Juliana+Walter View Post

      Anyway, I have read several of your thorough reviews and they are excellent! I am excited for you to get to The Deadly Device!
      Thanks so much! I'm glad to know someone out there is enjoying them! The Deadly Device is one of my absolute favorites in the series and reigned as my top favorite for years--until Ghost of Thornton Hall slowly took the top spot after several replays--so I'm really looking forward to writing that review! Thanks for reading, and I hope you like the DED review when it comes out!